After months of indecision, the Biden White House is on the verge of releasing the ArmyTactical Missile System, or ATACMS, to the Ukrainian Armed Forces to assist in the expulsion of Russian forces from their country.
No final decision has been made on when the missiles will be delivered, but the report, now running exclusively on ABC News, indicates that it is a question of when and no longer if. This is a major change from July 2022, when Jake Sullivan opined that ATACMS could lead to a direct conflict with Russia.
In July of 2022, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. was “prepared to take risk,” but implied that sending ATACMS could lead to direct conflict with Russia.
“There are certain capabilities the president has said he is not prepared to provide. One of them is long-range missiles, ATACMS, that have a range of 300 kilometers, because he does believe that while a key goal of the United States is to do the needful to support and defend Ukraine, another key goal is to ensure that we do not end up in a circumstance where we are heading down the road towards a third world war,” he said at the Aspen Security Forum.
By this July, though, Jake had changed out of his brown trousers and had a much more sane vision of Vladimir Putin’s weekly threat to nuke us.
ATACMS entered service in 1986 and first saw action in Desert Storm. It is specifically designed to strike targets deep behind enemy lines with a high degree of accuracy.
Some of the concerns about supplying ATACMS have more to do with our munitions stockpile than Putin’s displeasure. The ATACMS production line was shuttered in 2007 after about 3,700 missiles were built. According to ABC News, the policy change came about in part because we’ve suddenly “found” more ATACMS than we knew we had.ATACMS is a game changer because its 190-mile range puts 100% of the battlespace under the gun. The Kerch Strait Bridg is a sitting duck, without which Crimea and Occupied Kherson cannot be sustained. The Black Sea Fleet and the port of Sevastopol are within easy range. All the choke points on the so-called “land bridge” leading from Rostok-on-Don into Occupied Kherson are as good as gone.
As you can see in this image, ATACMS placed outside the reach of Russian artillery can hit Sevastopol and the Kerch Strait Bridge.
In order to get ATACMS, I’m sure Ukraine will have to sign a pledge not to use them on targets inside of Russia that do not include the illegally occupied oblasts annexed by Russia in 2014 and 2022.
It is a long step between agreeing to send the weapons and them hitting targets in Occupied Ukraine. It does seem as though the Biden Security Council, which has been accused of slow-rolling aid to Ukraine and increasing casualties and property damage, may have been shamed into action by our European allies providing extended-range cruise missiles.
The celebration will come when the Black Sea Fleet has to up anchor and sail away because Sevastopol is untenable and when Occupied Crimea and Kherson return to Ukrainian sovereignty because the Krech Strait Bridge is a pile of rubble on the sea floor.